Les Epstein


“Gall, why are you here?”  

His greeting from Mollie!  It was harsh but not surprising; Portugal had arrived at her door unannounced—rose in hand.  A white rose from which he plucked every thorn, stabbing thumbs and pointer fingers in the process.  Blood dripped but he hid the wounds.

“Well… I … well, it was… shall I say important that I be somewhere.” He handed her the rose, which she accepted and said she had to work.  She was prepping for the exam of all exams.  Portugal oddly felt he was in the midst of a similar test.

“Goodbye, Gall!  Thank you for the rose.  I will call you.  We’ll meet for coffee sometime. “ She closed the door.

Portugal slowly walked down the apartment hallway berating himself.  “Goodbye, Gall!”  We’ll meet for coffee!  It’s gall for thinking she would be interested! Gall that I should bring her a rose on the eve of something important! Gall! Just damn gall.“  She studied! He bled.  

Portugal settled on a bench by a pond outside Mollie’s apartment building. He stepped carefully about goose droppings and even larger droppings.  A sulk by the pond: so worthy the dodge of such obstacles.  He often sat here after visiting Mollie, hoping she might join him.  She never came.  

Portugal’s real name was Patrick.  He became Portugal after a school presentation about a country far from his Ohio home.  He worked on the project with such zeal that the rest of students felt inferior.  They called his Portugal out of spite.  The moniker stuck.  Mollie shortened it to “Gall,”—a friendly pet name.  He embraced it as a term of endearment.   

Nearby a young girl sat on a bench speaking to no one in particular.  Portugal pulled out a book to read and his fingers attached to it from dried blood.  He read as a Mallard approached.

Portugal did not have much of a history with ducks but he once read that Mallards were plentiful in his namesake country.  He once shared that point with Mollie; she smiled.  He swooned.

The girl sang suddenly to no one, singing: “ LOVE” high and wobbly.  She lacked pitch and musicality and the burst of sound pushed Portugal straight off the bench.

The move was too sudden. Frightened, the Mallard stepped up and bit him right on his south side. It was a left cheek grab.  Portugal yelped and shook hard yet the bird held on fast, his tail feathers whooshing about in the wind as sweet jazz.  Leafhoppers landed on Portugal’s glasses, crossing from one horizon to another.

Les Epstein is the author of eight plays and two operas that have appeared on stages across the U.S.  Most recently, his plays, “Ira’s Fantastical Ride up New York 9,” premiered at the Greenbrier Valley Theater (West Virginia), and “Thus Slud Zarilla” at Virginia’s Page to Stage.  The former play appears in the current edition of the Irish journal, Silver Apples Magazine.  Les’ work has appeared in journals in the United States, Philippines, India and the U.K. as well as on line publications.  Recent credits include Eyedrum Periodically, Rizal Journal, Interstice, Sweater Weather, and Saudade.  He teaches in Roanoke, VA.


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